Red Cross and Rogue Tweets: How Goodwill Can Save Your Bacon and Your Brand

Red cross tweet

(Note: this post comes from current Curator intern Matthew Robinson)

For those of us who follow Twitter trends and internet memes, a recent Red Cross miss-tweet, and the subsequent reaction from their community, was as exciting as any pac-10 playoff game. A social media specialist for the Red Cross fell victim to a now-classic blunder that all multi-account managers fear: an embarrassing rogue tweet.

The late night post read: “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head‘s Midas Touch beer…. when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd”

Like many of us who juggle personal and business social media accounts on the same device, the tweet was sent using an account management tool, in this case, Hootsuite. But instead of updating personal cohorts on the bottle count, the tweet went out to the 270 million followers of the Red Cross.

The gaffe was quickly and humorously handled by Wendy Harman, social media director at the Red Cross. Within about an hour, the miss-tweet was removed and replaced with following message:

"We've deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we've confiscated the keys."

Both the Red Cross and Dogfish Twitter feeds were soon buzzing with lighthearted razzing and calls for donations. The day of the "event," my Tweetdeck crashed twice trying to keep up with the #gettingslizzerd and Red Cross mentions.

While gaffes like these can turn septic, the beer blunder instead sparked a boost in donations of both blood and money to the Red Cross. Dogfish also received a marketing bump, as bars and pubs across America offered free pints of Dogfish beer to those who donated to the Red Cross.

Crisis averted. But how?

Many social mediaites and pundits have pointed to the Red Cross' quick response and use of humor in defusing the situation, but there is an even more important lesson to be learned. While I certainly acknowledge the Red Cross' PR acumen, there was much more at play than clever crowd handling; namely, 130 years of goodwill.

One obvious detraction is that the Red Cross has it easy in this regard. Who doesn't have goodwill for an organization committed to helping disaster victims? One would be right to point this out, but this is no reason to sit back in defeat, lamenting the fact that your company cannot compete with a philanthropic giant in the goodwill department.

Whether it's with your customers, employees or community, building goodwill is something every company can participate in, no matter its size or service. It's what turns predicaments into praise and snafus into sales, and it just may save your bacon and your brand. Looking for simple examples of goodwill building? Here are three companies that do it well.

Posterous: This small blogging platform is big on customer care. In the two years I have been using their service, I have been repeatedly amazed at how quickly and professionally they attend to their customers. While struggling with a new feature last year, I sent an email to their support team and fully expected to get an automated response. Instead, I received an email back within minutes with a thoughtful response. Beyond the obligatory tech support, they engaged me in conversation by asking follow-up questions, inviting feedback and even checking in the next day to make sure things were still working for me.

Starbucks: It's not the flavor that keeps me loyal to this Seattle brand, it’s their commitment to their employees. I worked for Starbucks while I was in school and was constantly amazed by their genuine interest in the staff. They worked with my class schedule, gave me additional time off during finals and offered a generous healthcare package, despite my part-time status

Whole Foods Market: 5% Day is a simple yet meaningful way that our client Whole Foods Market gives back to the community. Individual stores hold regular community giving days, in which five percent of the day's net sales are donated to a local non-profit group.

The Red Cross may build goodwill just by the nature of what they do, but these three companies have managed the same feat by the nature of how they do. By supporting their customers, employees and community in a meaningful way, they have built brand advocates to see them through communication hiccups and potential publicity setbacks. What brands would you go to bat for through thick or thin?